- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2007

Let me introduce you to the Dwights, film’s latest hilariously dysfunctional family:

Mother Jean (Brenda Blethyn) spends her days working at a canteen, her nights working the club circuit as a stand-up comedienne. Jean had a bit of fame a few decades ago and believes that if it worked once, it’ll work again.

Her son Tim (Khan Chittenden) is embarrassed by his mom’s racy act and is reluctant to introduce her to his hot new girlfriend, Jill (Emma Booth).

Thanks to Jean’s overbearing single mothering, Tim is 20 going on 15. He can’t spend the evening at Jill’s place without checking in with his mother, putting the insecure Jill on edge.

Adding to the strain is Tim’s brother, Mark (Richard Wilson). He was brain damaged at birth but has enough smarts to know that Tim’s romance means he’s stuck spending more time with Jean as she vainly tries to resurrect her career.

The boys get little help from their father (Frankie J. Holden). He’s rather busy with his gig as a retail security guard and his new album, “John Maitland Sings the Songs of Conway Twitty.”

Although it is an Australian film with a British star (Miss Blethyn), “Introducing the Dwights” has a lot in common with last summer’s indie hit about a family of eccentrics, “Little Miss Sunshine.” One relatively normal member of the family — in “Sunshine” was mom Sheryl. Here it’s Tim who tries to hold the sometimes-warring factions together — at first with delicate tact, then, when that fails, with screaming and all-out guilt-tripping.

Jean is as clueless as Greg Kinnear’s Richard. “I’m going to be a gay icon,” she confidently asserts. Even when some hint of self-knowledge enters her head, she can’t resist shutting it out with cries like, “I’ve got a Web site in Bristol.”

Jean isn’t as clueless as she looks, though. If she really thought her career was on the rebound, she wouldn’t be so desperate to hold on to her sons. Jill reminds her of everything she’s lost — her figure and her potential.

It’s less clear why the experienced Jill wants to be a part of this crazy bunch. Tim’s pretty cute, but he’s incredibly awkward. She initiates him into the wonders of sex in the coming-of-age tale, and here is where the film most departs from last summer’s feel-good family comedy: The warmhearted “Sunshine” didn’t have the somewhat graphic sex scenes of “Dwights.”

As with “Sunshine,” much of “Dwight’s” success is owed to its performances. Mr. Chittenden and Miss Booth put in star-making turns as two young lower-middle-class people learning to assert themselves for the first time. Mr. Wilson is sweetly funny — but never offensive — as the brain-damaged Mark.

The Oscar-nominated Miss Blethyn is, as usual, pitch-perfect as the larger-than-life needy mother. She somehow manages to gain our sympathy even while sabotaging her sons’ lives. When she sadly and resignedly declares, “You’re on your own. I’m breaking up the act,” all her transgressions are forgiven.


TITLE: “Introducing the Dwights” (“Clubland” in Australia)

RATING: R (sexual content and language)

CREDITS: Directed by Cherie Nowlan. Written by Keith Thompson.

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

WEB SITE: www.clublandthefilm.com


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